JONESBORO - Your child is sick. You take them to the doctor thinking it's just something routine. And, in an instant, everything changes. Your next stop is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the word, "leukemia," becomes a part of your world. It's one Region 8 family's story and a community's response to help.
Seven-year-old Ben Sherman has been prodded, poked and probed during countless tests since doctors found leukemia over 45 days ago. After a half dozen spinal taps, three bone marrow biopsies, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy, Ben doesn't even flinch when blood is drawn.
"He understands that this is something serious and he has been the ideal patient for the doctors," said Mike Sherman, Ben's father.
Mike Sherman says he and his wife, Jackie, weren't sure if leukemia was a death sentence when doctors first mentioned Ben had ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Doctors found a mass in his chest in August. But, the Shermans put their trust in St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and took turns staying with him: Jackie during the week and Mike on the weekends.
Ben kept up with all his friends and family through a special blog that allowed him to post pictures of himself--since sometimes his immune system was low and he couldn't have visitors.
"What's today?" asks a teacher in a classroom. In between going to the hospital for tests and treatment, Ben attended school at St. Jude.
"His teacher and principal have worked with St. Jude's and have lined out to keep him up to speed with his classmates," said Mike.
Eagerly awaiting his return to Jonesboro, classmates made cards and wrote letters. Ben is a triplet and his brothers say things have been quite different at home...
"My mom hasn't been there for a long time, so it's been hard because my Dad has to fix breakfast," said Matt, Ben's triplet brother.
"It's like not having someone to play football with," said Brooks, Ben's other brother.
Older sister Betsy can't wait for Ben to come home and their family routine to return to normal.
"Well, instead of like coming home and Mom fixing dinner, we usually have people bring dinner to us," said Betsy, Ben's older sister.
From picking up kids after school, to providing meals and helping with homework, friends, family and community volunteers have stepped up to keep this family going in a crisis.
"That made us know that we were going to get through it," said Mike. "It gave us the confidence to get through it."
Now what some kids would take for granted, Ben has missed. He missed his very first day of school here at the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet... And Ben says he misses the school lunches.
"Ben's siblings told him how wonderful it is. So Ben's dying to have some of our cafeteria food!" said Ron Williams, principal of V.P.A.
Ben can't eat everything he wants. His diet is still restricted. But, tests reveal he's getting stronger every day. There's no radiation allowed for children this age. So Ben will continue to fight the cancer through chemotherapy. He continues his treatment on an outpatient basis--not being allowed to be around people who might be sick. His immune system is still weak. So, these cards and messages on his blog will be the only contact he has for a while.
"Every time he would get a note or get a card he would smile," said Mike. "He's happy!"